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Shooter in deadly Aurora rampage had a gun with a laser sight, witness says

CNN logo CNN 2019-02-16 By Faith Karimi and Hollie Silverman, CNN
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(Provided by Reuters)

A man who was being let go from his job at a manufacturing business went on a shooting rampage at his workplace in Illinois, leaving five workers dead and five officers injured.

Authorities identified the gunman in the mass shooting Friday as 45-year-old Gary Martin.

He opened fire at the Henry Pratt Co. in the Chicago suburb of the Aurora, shooting at terrified employees before engaging in a gunbattle with responding officers.

Police officers armed with rifles stage near a commercial building where an active shooter was reported in the 600 block of Archer Avenue in Aurora, Ill., February 15, 2019. © Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Getty Police officers armed with rifles stage near a commercial building where an active shooter was reported in the 600 block of Archer Avenue in Aurora, Ill., February 15, 2019. All the five employees who died in the shooting were men, police said. The shooter was killed during an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officials, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said.

Martin, who worked at the company, was being let go the same day, police said. They did not provide additional details on why he was losing his job or whether he'd been notified before the shooting. 

'He was just shooting everybody'

John Probst, an employee who survived the shooting, told CNN affiliate WLS that the gunman was a coworker.

He was "running down the aisle" with a pistol that had a green laser sight on it, he said.

"As soon as I saw the green thing and heard the shots, we left," said Probst, who's worked at the plant for 40 years. "He started opening up on the room and he was just shooting everybody."

Probst said one of the victims who ran out with his arm bleeding told him the gunman "went ballistic."

Law enforcement officers gather outside the Henry Pratt Co. manufacturing plant in Aurora, Ill. © Matt Marton/AP Law enforcement officers gather outside the Henry Pratt Co. manufacturing plant in Aurora, Ill.

90 minutes of terror

It took about 90 minutes after the shooting rampage started to control the situation, police said.

Calls for an active shooter started pouring in at 1:24 p.m., and police arrived at the scene four minutes later and surrounded the facility, Ziman said.

When officers stormed the 29,000-square-foot building to look for the gunman, he fired at them.

"Additional officers began to arrive and were also fired upon," Ziman said. Five officers were struck by gunfire and a sixth officer hurt his knee and needed to go to a hospital. All the injured officers were shot within the first five minutes of responding, Ziman said, and their injuries are not life-threatening.

Henry Pratt Co. describes itself as one of the nation's largest manufacturers of industrial valves. Mueller Water Products, its parent company, said it's providing help to the affected families.

"Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the first responders, the Aurora community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time," it said in a statement.

"Our entire focus is on the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, and we are committed to providing any and all support to them and their families."

A task force from the Kane County Sheriff's Office will investigate the gunman's death, Ziman said. 

Police are working to identify the victims

Authorities have not identified the victims in the nation's latest mass shooting. But police said all the victims -- both employees and police officers -- were male.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who was sworn into office just over a month ago, thanked law enforcement officials.

"There is no way to prepare. There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams and their futures," he said in a statement. " There are no words to express our gratitude to the families of the officers who were injured in the line of duty as they responded within moments to the gravest kind of danger that they can face."

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said mass shootings have become all too common in the nation.

"It's a shame that a cold and heartless offender would be so selfish as to think he has the right to take an innocent life. But we as a society cannot allow these horrific acts to become commonplace," he said. 

Shocked neighbor speaks out

Martin's next-door neighbor said he moved into the apartment complex over the summer. She said she wasn't close with him but the two would say hi in passing.

"He seemed very friendly, he said hi to a lot of people who came and went, I'm kind of shocked I guess," Mary McKnight said. "I'm sad and shocked, and you kind of never know."

Law enforcement officers work at the scene of a shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. on Friday. © Matt Marton/AP Law enforcement officers work at the scene of a shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. on Friday.

Aurora is the second-largest city in Illinois, and has a population of about 200,000 people.

CNN's Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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